Poverty and unemployment are the biggest challenges facing the developing countries since several researches have linked the two with financial crisis and reduction in the overall purchasing power of a nation” (Coleman 2008, p.95). World Bank (1997) defines poverty as a financial condition where people are unable to maintain the “minimum standards” of living. The study used qualitative survey of 13 respondents from five developing countries; various aspects of social development programs to alleviate poverty and reduce unemployment were analyzed. It was based on the analysis of factors such as various governments’ efforts to improve their policy statements and development programs, and more importantly, the sustainability of such governments inclined programs. The study found out that many of the respondents did not acknowledge their respective governments’ efforts to help the poor, considering the lamentations received from many respondents. Instead, they seem to prefer other organizations not affiliated to governments such as church organizations and other non-governmental organizations. It is therefore justified to conclude that social development programs that are free from government influence should be applied in order to reduce the poverty pandemic and unemployment, since they seem to be more holistic and acceptable by the said poor community members.
Poverty and unemployment are said to be currently the two biggest challenges facing the developing countries since several researches have linked the two with financial crisis and reduction in the “overall purchasing power of a nation” (Coleman 2008, p.95). According to the World Bank (1997), the definition of poverty is inclined towards the financial perspectives, i.e. it is described as a financial condition where people are unable to maintain the “minimum standards” of living. Splane (1996, p.314) states that poverty is when one is unable to improve his or her quality of life due to lack of resources or assets, no educational status and skills, and characterized by limited choices, capabilities, security and power. Poverty, whether absolute or relative can be perpetuated by lack of job opportunities and income disparities mostly in the developing countries. Midgley & Livermore (1998, p.29) state that high and persistent unemployment has brought a major challenge in two dimensions: increased the demand on social welfare programs due to poverty and inequality, and secondly it has eroded the funding base.
Over the last decade, many researchers and social development experts have emphasized the need for effective social development programs, supported by social policy changes in the developing countries (Levitan & Mangum 1998, p.31). Many developing countries have tried to carry out economic reforms, especially the land reforms, with the aim of improving the economic conditions of the agriculturally landless laborers (Gajanayake 1993, p.121). Other efforts have been seen in the programs that are inclined towards alleviating poverty through empowerment of the poor communities’ ability, spearheaded by the non-governmental organizations (Anderson, Wilson, Mwansa & Osci-Hwedie 1994, p.71).
This study focused on the qualitative survey of 13 respondents from five developing countries, analysis of various aspects of social development programs to alleviate poverty and reduce unemployment, on the perspective of the poor communities in the developing countries. The qualitative surveys were favored because it allows for self-description rather than outside-description (Kurtz 2007, p.1), hence recording of the narrations. It was based on the analysis of factors such as various governments’ efforts to improve their policy statements and development programs, and more importantly, the sustainability of such governments inclined programs.
It was revealed that many of the respondents did not acknowledge their respective governments’ efforts to help the poor, and seems to prefer other organizations not affiliated to governments such as church organizations and other non-governmental organizations. It is therefore justified to conclude that social development programs that are free from government influence should be applied in order to reduce the poverty pandemic and unemployment, since they seem to be more holistic and acceptable by the said communities.
The study focused on the social efforts development efforts to alleviate poverty and unemployment in developing countries represented by Brazil, Ghana, Jamaica, Kyrgyzstan, and Zambia. The respondents were drawn a cross the four countries, taking into consideration the gender aspect of the poverty and unemployment spread. The total number of respondents was 13, with each respondent allowed adequate time to give his or her full testimonial in relation to personal experience with the underemployment, unemployment and poverty. I decided to interview more women than men, that is, the ratio of women to men respondents was 9:4. This is largely because, as has been observed, women in developing countries have been found to be more vulnerable to the impact of poverty and unemployment and that in the past, sociology tend to ignore, distort, or marginalize women (Abbott, Wallace & Tyler 2005, p.364). The study was set in regions of the respective counties with low employment rates and poor working conditions,
I recorded the interview with tape recorder so as to reflect back on the details once the process of interview was finished, while at the same time drafting some notes for authenticity purposes. The taped interview was then stored in different mediums, including CDs and diskettes to caution against the any distortion or destruction of any information data collected or offer backups just in case one copy gets destroyed. In illustrating the relationship between unemployment and poverty, I analyzed the social welfare problems and the associated role of the welfare programs in reducing poverty and narrowing the inequality gap.
I did not involve the relationship between the poverty and employment in the study, even though it would have been important since the two phenomena go hand in hand. In a complete data source, it would have been good if more data was collected, that is, more testimonials were collected from a wide range of the population, for comparative purposes. However, resource limitation made it impossible to increase the sample size more than what I got.
The relationship between poverty and unemployment or underemployment was critically observable in almost all the respondents. Even though all the regions in the study had the difficulties in terms of the family survival as a result of limited income, and poor job structure and nature, there is a clear evidenced relationship between the changed social structure overtime, which is attributed to the efforts by the governments to improve the welfare of the communities living in poverty stricken areas.
The families struggle with a lot of challenges in relation to getting basic necessities like food, shelter, education. Such challenges like exposure to drug and crime is seen in the narration from one of the female respondent from Brazil, 45 year old Angelina who says, “We’ve lived very close to drugs, murders. They repeated their grades many times….” in reference to her children and the exposure to social problems associated with poverty.
The poverty aspect also leads to social exclusion. This is well illustrated by a fifty year-old Ghanian who expresses his predicament with the way other people treat the poor, that he cannot make friends because he is poor, a belief that is engraved in him and may probably well represent the minds of the poor. His narration illustrates the disintegration of the agricultural system in the developing countries, perpetuating joblessness and poverty. A similar predicament is represented by a 40-year old homeless male Jamaican, Delroy Bernard who expresses the state of joblessness in his native home of Jamaica and the belief that it is the role of the government to provide jobs, a belief that is shared by many as he says: “government nuh help de youths dem wid work”. It is also important to note that the respondent has little or no proper education, as seen in the spoken English, a clear connect of poverty, lack of education and unemployment.
Domestic violence is a serious problem that has long been linked with poverty and unemployment. Poor fathers abandoning their young families is a common scenario represented by almost all the female respondents. For example, a young Jamaican woman, Sherryl Tate illustrates how her violent husband molested her and just got away with the act, even after reported the case to the police. “….. He chopped us with a machete….he was charged and sentenced to one year”, Sherryl Tate. This indicates a weak system of justice that does not consider domestic violence a serious offense, hence the 1-year imprisonment. This could be emphasized by corruption prevalence as illustrated by 44 year old female, Lada from Kyrgyzstan. Lada says, “It’s very difficult to gain wealth by honest work. Usually people make their fortune by dishonest means”.
Poverty, schooling, unemployment and family issues have been well illustrated by Kata, an elderly woman, Lada, both from Kyrgyzstan and 26-year old Lizzie from Zambia. “Some families in this village can’t afford even food for their children…..in many such families children cannot attend school, because they do not have clothes and shoes”, Lada says. Lizzie on the other hand portrays how poverty spreads in families, especially the extended families. A father abandons his children only for a relative to take care of them, making the cycle of poverty continuous. “While I was a child our parents divorced and my father disappeared…..we were being kept by my mother who died before I completed grade 7. There were six of us and we had nowhere to go. My aunt who lives in Mikonfwa took us to her house” Lizzie. Lizzie and her siblings are eventually settled at a social center built by the church.
It is critical to observe that poverty has become a global problem affecting millions of people, especially from developing countries. In 1980, between 340 and 780 million people from developing countries were unable to get adequate diet (Coleman 2008, p.99; Bamberger & Matovu 1996, p.221). In a World Bank study report on poverty and unemployment, letters of requests were sent to the World Bank to ask for their comments on whether the country for which they were responsible had made any significant policy statements on poverty reduction (p.222). Response received confirmed that majority of these countries that include Zambia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, South Africa, Ghana, Lesotho and many others had made public policy statements about the importance of poverty reduction, although action may not necessarily have followed. However, Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Congo, Mali, Madagascar, Tanzania and Togo were reported to have made no official statements, but in most, progress was being made on the basis of the poverty reduction strategies through the poverty and unemployment reduction programs (p.223). In actual sense, it is obvious that political progress may be made by the government of the day, but the fact that governments change everyday may complicate these policy issues. That is to say, a new government may not put much interest in proceeding policy issues started by the previous governments. Furthermore, the World Bank’s poverty assessments usually reveal that governments have unsatisfactory record of public expenditures on the social sectors, such as primary healthcare as well as education, with most governments found to be guilty of putting much of the money for such programs to salary and higher education, and in other cases fleecing the money as highlighted by some of the respondents in this study (p.224). It is also known that healthy populations are likely to be more productive than unhealthy population. It is therefore logical to link the lack of proper policy on healthcare sector to be a major cause for poverty and consequently unemployment.
The labor markets in these developing countries are said to be perpetuated by the poor labor structure and disregard for small scale businesses. In this context, poverty, unemployment, and inadequate education are in display. That is, the more the population is less educated, the less it is likely to get proper jobs in the labor market. For example, Zambia’s investment code favors large capital-intensive enterprises, reducing opportunities for labor-intensive microenterprises development (Anderson et al. 1994, p. 81). The social development programs are therefore touted to be more effective in the process of poverty and unemployment reduction.
However, the theoretical analysis shows that the social development programs have been overwhelmed and their funding base reduced. With poverty and lack of proper education clearly elaborated, it is logical to observe that continual lack of proper educational structure will hamper the progress poverty and unemployment eradication.
Even though the economic reforms, industrial policy reforms and the resource management programs are seen as the best efforts in the reduction of poverty and unemployment, the role of social welfare programs must be presenting some significant perspective in the reduction of poverty and unemployment, considering the recent increase of in the shift towards these social development programs. Such a program would be more effective if they were not affiliated to the governments of the day, for smooth running and sustainability.
Social development programs at the grass root level, with no much political attachments are preferred as shown, since the target communities believe the politically neutral organizations would do much more, given the same resources. Furthermore, the fact that political leadership change more frequently may make the political projects unsustainable to competing interests.
Since the political affiliated projects are not popular with the communities, and at the same time the people still believe it is the responsibility of the government to improve their economic and social welfare, there is need for more research on the connect between these phenomena. Again there is the need for more policy research on the role of government agencies in eradication of poverty and unemployment. This is because as shown earlier, development agencies have been overwhelmed and the funding base also nearly depleted or just reduced.
List of References
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